Don’t get your hopes up: this is a very early prototype from the cancelled sequel to Infocom’s classic text adventure. It’s barely playable, though it does provide an interesting look at how the game would have played with a realtime 3D engine. The prototype does introduce a puzzle (at least the only one I could find) and features voice acting as well as a pretty cool soundtrack tune. Judging by the puzzle, you were able to give orders to your robot companions similarly to how Infocom’s classic text adventures worked.
The prototype can be difficult to execute — I was only able to run this game on a pre-made Windows 95 VMWare machine with specific display drivers. The game has to be run in fullscreen as otherwise graphics look completely corrupt in window mode. When you launch the game, you are given the option to load one of three .SCP files (a seemingly proprietary level format), although only PAXTONRM.SCP works correctly; the rest will crash the loader.
VMWare is problematic for playing this prototype because it doesn’t give you the option to limit the CPU cycles. I recommend using a tool like CPU Killer compatible with Windows 95, or give Win95 on DOSBox a shot.
Interestingly, this ISO image has loads of assets in easily readable BMP format, many of which aren’t seen in the prototype. A sad coda to Infocom’s enduring legacy; we can only imagine what the final game would have been like.
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And now, a bit of history about this piece: back in 2007, an alleged ex-employee from Activision was auctioning this CD on eBay. He couldn’t verify the contents of the disc, but many enthusiasts including myself still pledged hoping it was legit. My top bid was $40 (hey, it was a pretty decent sum at the time) but the CD was sold at a whooping $90. I wasn’t going to give up, so I contacted the seller who in turn put me in touch with the buyer. Turns out he was a nice guy who exchanged the same ISO I’m uploading right now for a physical soundtrack of Scratches and a signed copy of the game. It was a fairly good deal. This prototype brings back great memories.
It’s been almost ten years since that transaction happened, and I think the time has come to properly preserve this rare piece of software history. Enjoy!